Conan O'Brien, at long last, made his debut Monday as the new host of The Tonight Show.
I was glad to see Jay Leno go, but I can't help but wonder if O'Brien will suffer the former host's fate. Years ago, Leno was a rising young comedian who was an absolute hoot.
Ah, but he took over The Tonight Show from Johnny Carson and became, well, boring. His hyperactivity and unpredictability was toned down and the man became annoying conservative in his approach -- Leno went from a unique comedian to a man who seemed petrified of taking any chances. Leno, upon taking over from Carson, immediately became predictable, trite and more than a bit boring.
Well, Leno's gone and along comes O'Brien. An irreverent fellow who thrived on the absurd and making fun of himself at any given opportunity. Some of the old Conan was present during his Tonight Show debut, but there was something else there, too -- everything just felt, well, so scripted.
When O'Brien hosted Late Night, the whole thing was a mess. Yes, it was a lot of fun, but it was a sloppy mess, nonetheless. Things rarely felt so "scripted," you know? That same feel just wasn't present on Monday night. Yes, the show kicked off with O'Brien making a "to do" list of things to do prior to taking over for Leno. Ah, but wait! He forgot to move to Los Angeles, so we had that play out for a bit prior to Conan's arrival and blah, blah, blah. It seemed just too slick, too well rehearsed. So unlike an O'Brien skit, in fact.
You had to be watching to get the full impact, of course. Oh well.
What was disturbing and can be described is that drummer Max Weinburg -- the man who's banter with Conan was always a highlight of the old show -- was pushed to the background. Andy Richter was back in the fold (he was with O'Brien during the early days of Late Night,) but he was shoved in the background, too. That left us with just O'Brien -- a man who's funny as hell but does need some lackeys to bounce things off of from time to time. Those lackeys were pushed to the background, and that just made things less (seemingly, of course) spontaneous.
At least Pearl Jam showed up and kicked ass.
Hopefully, O'Brien will get more comfortable in his role as host of The Tonight Show and get back to his old shenanigans. I sure hope so. Otherwise, late night on NBC will be pretty much pointless. Jimmy Fallon is busily wrecking O'Brien's old show, so I at least hope Conan returns to form on The Tonight Show.
We'll just have to see, huh?